Starting this week, the Wednesday Davis Farmers Market will be accepting Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. The Saturday market started accepting the card on Jan. 8.
Participants in federal or state food stamp programs, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or CalFresh, can get “market scrip,” in the form of wooden tokens, from the Market Information shed.
The farmers market EBT Project, started at the Berkeley Ecology Center, came up with this concept after they realized California farmers markets, flea markets and produce stands do not usually have the electricity and phone lines needed for eligible food vendors to accept EBT cards individually.
This system requires the market management to become authorized as a SNAP retailer by the USDA, and to organize and promote the use of EBT cards at the market.
The East Quad Market at UC Davis will begin accepting EBT cards on March 30. New farmers markets, opening in May in West Sacramento and June at Sutter Davis Hospital, will also be accepting the cards.
Randii MacNear, executive director of the Davis Farmers Market, said she is happy there is now a mechanism for using the EBT cards at the Farmers Market. The Market accepted paper food stamps about 10 years ago, but due to lack of resources for the new EBT technology, they had to stop accepting them.
Sonia Mora, co-founder of the Woodland farmers market, said the Woodland farmers market began accepting EBT cards two years ago, but finds there are challenges to the program. Competition with supermarket priced products and a lack of awareness of EBT users were among the issues.
“The program has been going well,” Mora said. “The company needs to tell customers that they can use their cards at farmers markets when they are given the cards. Also, it’s difficult because some of the fruit is much cheaper at supermarkets, so it’s not economically feasible for those on food stamps to purchase this produce.”
Carle Brinkman, project manager for the EBT Project, works with farmers market managers throughout California, creating unique tokens for each market and helping with logistics, signs and promotions.
Brinkman said about 200 to 300 farmers markets throughout the state are now accepting EBT cards since the program began in Berkeley in 2002. She said it is her mission to raise the number of participating farmers markets this year.
Brinkman agreed the biggest challenge for the project is marketing and outreach to make sure EBT users are aware that farmers markets accept the cards.
“It’s an ongoing process,” Brinkman said. “Overall, there have been more clients able to access farmers markets as a result of the program, allowing farmers to take home more revenue and has helped to address serious diet related illness.”
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.